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Fortune Brainstorm Green

Monsanto CEO applies for sainthood

I'm watching the CEO of Monsanto, Hugh Grant, talk about how his company is a boon to sustainability. They're focused on reducing the footprint of agriculture and feeding the world's hungry -- especially poor African women. Oh, and also they're dedicated to reducing water use. All the farmers that use their seeds love them, and clearly their products are superior since the farmers keep coming back. Oh, and they spend $2 million a day on R&D, so they'll figure out how to feed the world and generate biofuel stocks at the same time. Gosh, why would anyone be scared of …

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Please, sir, I want some GMOs

Worldwide resistance to GMOs dwindle as food bills rise

For a while now, I've been cautioning people that surging prices for industrial food don't necessarily "level the playing field" for sustainably produced fare. In fact, the few giant companies that dominate the global food system are fattening themselves on higher prices, consolidating their grip over the world's palate. Last week, new Gristmill blogger Anna Lappe showed that Cargill -- a major producer of everything from fertilizer to biofuel to meat -- recently reported an 86 percent jump in quarterly earnings. And Monday, Andrew Pollack of The New York Times reported that sky-high prices are breaking down global resistance to …

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Let them eat biofuel

Food vs. fuel debate, German edition

Defending her country's biofuel mandates in a time of global food crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently denied that turning food crops into car fuel affects prices. Those looking for reasons behind the recent spike in food prices shouldn't blame ethanol and biodiesel makers, she argued. Instead, look at how people are eating in the global south: If you travel to India these days, then a main part of the debate is about the "second meal." People are eating twice a day, and if a third of one billion people in India do that, it adds up to 300 million …

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PETA offers $1 million for commercially viable test-tube meat

PETA thinks the idea of test-tube meat looks like a million bucks. Literally. The outspoken animal-rights group is offering a cool one mil to the "first person to come up with a method to produce commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012." The idea caused "a near civil war in our office," says PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk, adding, "We will have members leave us over this." But in the end, she says, "We don't mind taking uncomfortable positions if it means that fewer animals suffer."

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Bottoms up: Pollan on gardening

Growing your own food is fine, but governmental action is needed, and soon

I like Michael Pollan -- really, I do -- which is why it was frustrating to see his wilted-salad-green entreaty to act on climate change in yesterday's paper: The climate-change crisis is at its very bottom a crisis of lifestyle -- of character, even. The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us (consumer spending represents 70 percent of our economy), and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences. For us to wait for legislation or …

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Bush's bread man

Baltimore baker takes on great quacking menace

Last week, The New York Times' David Streitfeld told the story of one J.R. Paterakis, a Baltimore "baker" who opposes the Conservation Reserve Program, which provides incentives to farmers to set aside their land for wildlife, clean water, and (incidentally) massive carbon sequestration. Seemed like an opportunity to deploy my rye wit. The program has been a huge success -- protecting 35 million acres of land and partially restoring the "duck factory" of the upper Midwest that fills the skies of North America with quacks and hunting opportunities -- so why has Mr. Paterakis put this great environmental success story …

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Slurps of joy

Nalgene dumps estrogenic ingredient

Have you been fretting over the reports of gender-bending pollutants leaching from reusable water bottles? Finally, some good news: Nalgene is dumping polycarbonate plastic, according to a report in The New York Times today. Nalgene made its decision in response to Health Canada's announcement earlier this week that it would list bisphenol A as a toxicant. BPA is the estrogenic plastic additive that makes polycarbonate a dubious choice for food and beverage containers. Grist reported earlier this week that the National Institutes of Health is also expressing increased concern about the chemical, which has been at the center of a …

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Nalgene, Wal-Mart back away from BPA

Bottle manufacturer Nalgene will stop using plastic containing bisphenol A in response to concerns from the National Toxicology Program and the Canadian health department that the chemical probably shouldn't be sucked on by kids. Nalgene says it still believes its clear, hard plastic bottles "are safe for their intended use" but says it's responding to customers who "indicated they preferred BPA-free alternatives." Wal-Mart also announced it would pull all baby bottles made with BPA from its shelves by early next year.

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What the world needs now

Three million more acres of industrial corn?

According to USDA projections, U.S. farmers will plant 86 million acres of corn in 2008. At any time in the last 50 years, that would be plenty. Since 1958, USDA figures tell us, farmers have broken 80 million acres only ten times. In fact, if farmers meet expectations, 2008 will rank as the second-largest planting of corn since 1949. If you own shares in a fertilizer company -- corn being an extremely fertilizer-intensive crop -- you're celebrating. Indeed, shares of Mosaic, a fertilizer giant two-thirds owned by Cargill, have more than doubled in value over the past six months. And …

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Who's cashing in on the high price of food?

With food riots raging, let’s open the books on the finances of Big Ag

When we talk about the crisis in food prices, we should scrape below the surface to explore who's actually benefiting from the crisis. Unless you've had your head stuck in the freezer at Dean & Deluca, you've heard about the food crisis across the planet. A recent Financial Times displayed this staggering map of the globe: Black dots marked each of the countries were food riots have been sparked in outrage against the rising prices of food. Thirty dots in all. A recent CNN report noted that "Riots, instability spread as food prices skyrocket." These surging costs, warns World Bank …